Even as the Sinulog Festival may be the grandest festival with parties happening all over the city, the Cebuano festival also has a religious side to it. It is more than just people enjoying themselves during the event. The Sinulog is a dance in honor of the image of the Santo Niño. While the dance had pagan origins, the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 changed this. Instead of dancing in front of wooden idols, it evolved into a dance honoring the Holy Child. Due to this, one of the activities you may want to join during the festivities is the Walk with Jesus opening salvo of the Sinulog Festival. Every year, thousands join the procession that starts in Fuente Osmena and ends at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño. People even brave the rain as part of their sacrifice during the Sinulog season. People start to converge at Fuente Osmena at around 4:00 AM and the procession officially starts at 4:30 AM. The Walk with Jesus procession this year is scheduled on January 11.
While most of the participants in the Sinulog Grand Parade are college students, elementary and high school students are also given the opportunity to dance in the parade. Each year, these students are given the chance to show their talents in the Sinulog sa Kabataan. Due to the huge number of contingents participating in the event, it was divided into two categories: students based in Cebu City and students from towns and cities outside of Cebu City. This was later changed with students from schools outside of Cebu City participating in the Sinulog sa Lalawigan. The Sinulog sa Lalawigan for this year will be held on January 13.
In the past, students from schools based in Cebu City showed their talents through the Sinulog sa Kabataan sa Dakbayan. This school-based competition was changed into a barangay-based competition. The first Sinulog sa Barangay was held in 2017 with Barangay Labangon winning the ritual showdown category. The same barangay also won best in musicality while Barangay Basak San Nicolas won the street dancing category. The Sinulog sa Barangay for 2018 is scheduled on January 14 or a week before the Sinulog Grand Parade.
Another thing you can look forward to during the Sinulog Festival is the nightly cultural shows by different universities in the city. The cultural shows in the past were held at Fuente Osmena, which is located at the center of the city. These events give college students the chance to showcase their talents to locals and visitors to Cebu. For 2018, the cultural shows will be held at Plaza Independencia, which went through a major facelift recently. The nightly cultural shows start January 14 with the last one held on the night before the grand parade.
The Sinulog Festival Queen is one of the highlights of the Sinulog Festival. The competition pits the lead dancers of the contingents participating in the Sinulog Grand Parade. The lead dancers would participate in pageants showcasing their talents while performing their Sinulog dance routine. In addition, a photo shoot is also held with the participants clad in their Festival Queen attire. The Festival Queen is crowned on the Friday before the Grand Parade. The coronation of the Sinulog Festival Queen for 2018 will be held on January 19.
Aside from the cultural shows, religious processions, and grand parade, you can also look forward to the different Sinulog-inspired decorations every year. These decorations are put up by different companies with offices located in the Queen City of the South. One of the most awaited decorations is the one put up by Penshoppe in Fuente Osmena. Each year, the display of this Cebu-based company is probably the most popular as locals and visitors alike take pictures of it.
Cebu is one of the top tourist destinations in the country. Due to this, visitors can look forward to getting their hands on souvenir items they can bring home with them. When the Sinulog season comes, visitors will have a wide of products to choose from. From delicacies like the Peanut Browas, Toasted Mini Mamons, and Butterscotch to Sinulog shirt, the market will be filled with these goodies. They can buy them just about anywhere. But, the best place would be along the sidewalk in front of Abellana School along Osmena Boulevard. Visitors can test their negotiating skills and find the best deal in one of the stalls lining the place.
Another event to look forward to during the Sinulog Festival is the fluvial procession. This annual event brings together a flotilla of over a hundred boats of different shapes and sizes. The fluvial procession shows the devotion of Cebuanos to the image of the Santo Niño as they accompany its voyage from the St. Joseph Parish located in Mandaue City to Basilica Minore de Sto. Niño in Cebu City. It has already become a tradition for the image the Child Jesus to be brought to the church in Mandaue City to visit his foster father, St. Joseph. It stays in the church for the night before it is brought back to Cebu City. The fluvial procession reenacts the event when the Spaniards brought the image tom Cebu centuries ago. In addition to the flotilla of boats, a helicopter from the Philippine Air Force would perform a flyby and drop flower petals on the procession. The fluvial procession for this year will be held on January 20.
In the afternoon of the third Saturday of January every year, a solemn procession is held. The Solemn Procession of the Miraculous Image of the Santo Niño is held a day before the grand parade. The event is attended by hundreds of thousands. There are even reports in the past indicating that a million people joined the procession. This may not be far off since there were instances in the past the front end of the procession catches the rear end. The Image of the Santo Niño passes through some major roads in the city and will last for hours. It starts and ends at the Basilica Minore de Sto. Niño.
The last but definitely not the least thing to look forward to during the Sinulog is the Sinulog Grand Parade. It is the culminating activity of the grandest festival in the country. The grand parade has been likened to the Mardi Gras of Brazil. It attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world. It is one of the events every Filipino should try to experience at least once in their lifetime. The grand parade passes through some of the major streets of the Queen City of the City. It starts and ends at the Cebu City Sports Center. It is held on the third Sunday of January every year. For this year, it is scheduled on January 21. Contingents from different parts of the island join this event. Some contingents from other provinces in the country also participate in the Sinulog Grand Parade.